By Garrett Haake
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Animal rights group PETA filed two federal complaints against the UniverSoul Circus and its animal vendors this week for improper treatment of elephants.
The complaints, complete with videos the organization said were shot by "concerned citizens," appear to show an arthritic, limping elephant performing and another bloated abnormally after being fed moldy hay.
PETA said both videos were shot in Florissant, Mo., last week, a claim 41 Action News cannot independently verify.
The complaints come on the heels of several USDA citations over three years against Jorge Barreda, who provides the elephants for UniverSoul.
In the most recent filing, a December 2013 inspection of Barreda's facility in Florida found one elephant with an oozing sore on its face that had apparently gone untreated by a vet, in violation of USDA code.
A spokesman for UniverSoul Circus declined to comment on the record for this report, referring 41 Action News to the company's animal rights policy on its website .
"The UniverSoul Circus is committed to the proper treatment of animals," that statement reads in part. "We strongly oppose any form of cruelty or mistreatment of animals, wild or domestic - and will not tolerate any mistreatment on our circus site. In over 19 years and more than 10,000 performances, none of our animal vendors have ever been cited for animal abuse while performing at the UniverSoul Circus."
Approached outside the elephant pen at the circus on Thursday, Barreda declined to discuss the allegations on camera, or view the PETA videos of alleged mistreatment of elephants in his care. Video.